Patriots

Soccer coach's abbrasive tactics reach a new low

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Soccer coach's abbrasive tactics reach a new low

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, August 18, 2011
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Grabbing an opposing coach by the face and placing a finger near his eye, making inappropriate gestures to rival players and attacking ballboys for time-wasting -- Jose Mourinho has taken his abrasive tactics to a new level. The Real Madrid coach's antics during a mass brawl near the end of the Spanish Supercup against Barcelona on Wednesday are threatening to taint his club's image and detract from the thrilling football two of the world's best teams are capable of producing. Mourinho strolled through a cluster of fighting players and brusquely flicked a finger near Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova's eye. Vilanova, who had his back to Mourinho, turned and reciprocated with a push. Players left both benches to join the fight at Camp Nou, resulting in three players being sent off to overshadow what had been an attractive game of football decided by Messi's 87th-minute winner which gave Barcelona a record 10th Supercup and third straight. Referee David Fernandez Borbalan's failure to include details of Mourinho's incident in his match report means he and Vilanova are likely to escape punishment when the disciplinary committee meets next week. Madrid pair Marcelo and Mesut Oezil and Barcelona striker David Villa could also avoid a ban despite being sent off, since the Supercup is considered a one-off competition and sanctions don't necessarily carry over to other domestic competitions. El Pais newspaper described the match, which Barcelona won 3-2 for a 5-4 aggregate victory, as "Football from Another Planet." But while El Mundo Deportivo echoed those sentiments, the Barcelona-based sports newspaper then took a stab at the Madrid coach by saying "Mourinho dirties football further; (Madrid) don't know how to lose nor win." Barcelona's players labeled Madrid's football a "disgrace" while Gerard Pique said "Mourinho is destroying Spanish football." The question is what are Mourinho's tactics doing to Madrid's reputation at a time when it can't find a way to beat its biggest rival. "The images speak for themselves," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "There are certain things that shouldn't be done. This will all end badly if it doesn't stop." Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart said on Catalan radio that football had given Mourinho a "double personality." "This is not his way of being, he's a normal person. I don't ever remember one coach attacking another. I hope this all ends with Mourinho apologizing to Vilanova," said Gaspart, who headed the club when Mourinho worked there as an assistant, although fans continue to refer to him as "the translator." "Madrid adores him, but the truth is this isn't the Mourinho I know." Mourinho was also seen making an inappropriate gestures toward Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves. He later made a derogatory remark about Vilanova in the postgame news conference and accused Barcelona's ballboys of time wasting, saying the tactic was something a "small-time" club like Barcelona did. "I am very happy for my team after what happened in the end. What happened is somebody provoked the situation, and it certainly wasn't a player from Real Madrid," the Portuguese coach said. But even former Madrid general director Jorge Valdano was distressed by the end of the match. "Without a doubt that was the worst way to end the Spanish Supercup," he said. The two teams played four matches in 18 days in April which were characterized by fights, diving and accusations of feigned injuries. That eventually led to Mourinho being banned for five matches for alleging referees and UEFA favored Barcelona. While at Chelsea, Mourinho was banned from the touchline for two matches in 2005 by UEFA after he accused Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard of visiting Swedish referee Anders Frisk at halftime of a Champions League match. He was also fined 40,000 (then 53,000) and banned from sitting on the bench for three games after he made a handcuff gesture when two of his then-Inter Milan players were sent off during a Serie A match against Sampdoria in 2010. On Wednesday, Mourinho was undone by Messi's brilliance. The Argentine set up Andres Iniesta for the opener before scoring the other goals to become the competition's all-time leading scorer by two from former Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez. While the Spanish league season remains under threat of delay due to a strike, for Madrid the message was clear: any success this season will have to be at Barcelona's expense. "We have won a Supercup against Real Madrid during a very intense game during which they've put us under a lot of pressure," Guardiola said. "And we have learned a lot from these two games that we will use when we meet them again the future."

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

“We’re a blue-collar team…”

Devin McCourty didn’t hesitate when asked about the Patriots’ identity. Moments prior, McCourty and his teammates had just stomped the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, 33-8, to run their win streak to a half-dozen games. The Pats are tied for the best record in the AFC with the Steelers

“We played at a high level,” said McCourty. “They made some plays, but I thought we executed our game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do today.”

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After surrendering a 100-points per game through the first month (ok, it was only 32), the Pats defense has flexed their muscle during this stretch, allowing 12.5 points per game, which would be the best in the NFL were this a season-long thing. We’re not looking at the same unit even though the personnel is largely the same. If anything, from a talent-level, this defense has less skill than it did when the season started. Their best player, Dont'a Hightower, is out for the year, lost during the first win of this 6-game streak. They’ve also survived three-game absences from $31-million cornerback Stephon Gilmore and their most consistent interior defender, tackle Malcom Brown. Yet the defense keeps showing up, keeps improving and its confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

“We’re just playing together…we’re kind of figuring that out,” said McCourty. “We’re understanding how we need to prepare, how we need to practice, whether it’s a hard, full-padded practice, whether it’s a walkthrough, we know what we need to do on each of those days and when we do that, we give ourselves a chance. You’re seeing that on Sundays. Everyone running around, everyone knows their job and it’s all about execution.”

“I thought our players gave a great effort tonight,” said Bill Belichick. “We came out and performed well early, throughout the game and played really good situational football.”

The Pats were opportunistic, forcing three turnovers, including one in a huge spot, when Marquis Flowers stripped the ball from wideout Seth Roberts as the Raiders were knocking on the door. It was 14-0 at the time, and Oakland had life. Second-year cornerback Jon Jones battled Roberts, Flowers popped the ball free and safety Pat Chung pounced on it. Instead of milking the clock and heading into halftime up two scores, the Pats turned that fumble into points, driving to midfield before Steven Gostkowski kicked a career-long 62 yarder. That further energized a Pats team that was already surging.

“It’s something we talk about every week,” said McCourty. “We’re playing solid defense, executing the game plan, but changing the game with turnovers - you know, even Duron’s interception was a third down so it was kind of like a punt. The energy that brings - when the offense takes the field after we get a turnover - that’s huge. And then with them driving again in the red area before the half is what we talked about, getting that stop.”

“We had some real critical swings with those turnovers,” admired Tom Brady, a chief beneficiary of those change in possessions.

Earlier this week, I asked McCourty if he got a sense that the team was coming together at the tail end of their stay in Colorado Springs. He smiled and joked initially, but you could sense the veteran safety can see and feel what the rest of the league is now a witness to.

“I hope so. I mean, it’d probably be terrible if I say yeah and then we go on a five-game losing streak. I can see the headline: ‘McCourty was wrong.’ So, no, I think we understand how the season starts to pick up. You know, each game means more. We understand that seven wins (now 8) doesn’t mean anything. We have to continue to get better. So, I think why we end up usually improving is because it’s the understanding of there’s no tomorrow.”

The defense ordered that Code Red after losing to Carolina in Week 4, and since then, they have worked harder, worked longer and cleaned up so many of the issues that ailed them that opening month. It’s a credit to the players, “they won’ the game tonight,” said Belichick, and the coaching staff as well. if you’ve followed this team over the years, you know even now, they’re not satisfied. There are “things to work on” added Belichick and they’ll start that work on the flight home from Mexico City to Foxboro. 

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